By Martin Leduc
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“We are still living in a wonderful time with the discovery of all these curiosities”, exclaims on the phone Gilles Dawidowicz, vice-president of the Astronomical Society of France and president of the commission of planetology.
After the James Webb telescope observed an exoplanet whose atmosphere is partly composed of CO2, and we were able to see a planet in the shape of a rugby ball, this time it was Canadian scientists from the University of Montreal and the Institute for Research on Exoplanets, which have unearthed a planet they believe to be completely covered in water.
“Unheard of in these proportions, whether in our solar system or anywhere else,” says the vice-president.
A mass composed of between 20 and 30% water. The earth is 1%
Located in the constellation of the Dragon, at 100 light yearsi.e. 950,000 billion kilometers of our good old Earth, the mass of this planet with the pretty temporary name of TOI-1452bwould be, according to Charles Cadieux, one of the discoverers, composed of water in dantesque proportions: between 20 and 30%.
By way of comparison, the mass of our blue planet, 72% covered by water, is composed of barely 1% H2O.
Exoplanet TOI-1452 b may be rocky like Earth, but its radius, mass and density suggest that it would be a very different world from ours.
Slightly bigger and more massive than Earth (about 70% larger and 5 times more massive), according to Charles Cadieux, this exoplanet has a sun, called TOI-1452. This one, smaller than ours, would heat it “in temperatures neither too hot nor too cold”.
“If we assume that the atmosphere of this exoplanet is similar to ours, and that it is indeed water, then that would mean that it is between 0 and 100 degrees”says Gilles Dawidowicz.
Is there a tidal phenomenon like in the movie Interstellar ?
It is not known, however, if one or more moons are present and apply a tidal phenomenon on TOI-1452 b.
If so, maybe huge tides, much like the ones in the movie Interstellartake place on this exoplanet. But this is rather fantastic for the moment, because it is impossible to affirm it.
And of life?
Again, impossible to answer. “Having water does not necessarily mean that there is life,” says Gilles Dawidowicz.
Even if we suspect that it is water, it could be very salty, radioactive, and therefore sterile…
On the other hand, one can very well imagine whether there was or will be of life there. “Nothing is impossible,” he recalls.
Many questions that James Webb can answer
For the moment, only the fact that this exoplanet is covered with a liquid is certain. “It could very well be a completely different liquid, and that would change everything,” remarks the president of the Commission of Planetology.
Along the same lines, if we realize that the atmosphere is not at all the same as on Earth, then that would change a lot of things, in particular at the temperature “At the top of Everest, water boils at 60°C,” he recalls.
But this information, the James Webb telescope, which has just taken magnificent photos of Jupiter, is able to provide it to us. “This will get the attention of astronomers, who will want to know more. In the coming weeks, we should learn more, ”he explains.
And then, as a reminder, there are billions of exoplanets. Perhaps one day we will find sunless ones, huge asteroids, very particular shapes… So many things remain to be discovered. We look forward.
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